PERSONAL: Born in Australia.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Mountaineers Books, 1001 Southwest Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1162. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Rock and mountain climber and author. Videographer of documentary film Hitting the Wall.
AWARDS, HONORS: Emmy Award for videography, for Hitting the Wall; National Outdoor Book Award, Outdoor Literature Category, 1998, for Postcards from the Ledge: Collected Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child.
Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalayas, Peregrine Smith Books (Salt Lake City, UT), 1990, 2nd edition, Mountaineers Books (Seattle WA), 1998.
Mixed Emotions: Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child, Mountaineers Books (Seattle, WA), 1993.
Climbing: The Complete Reference, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1995.
Postcards from the Ledge: Collected Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child, Mountaineers Books (Seattle, WA), 1998.
(With Lynn Hill) Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World, Norton (New York, NY), 2002.
Child's articles and photographs have also appeared in Outside, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Climbing and Rock and Ice magazines.
SIDELIGHTS: Greg Child is a rock climber, a mountaineer, and an author of several books on mountaineering. He grew to love climbing in his native Australia, where he established many new climbing routes through rock formations. Child made his name as a top-flight climber in the 1970s when he scaled mountains such as Aurora and Lost in America. Child has made it to the top of Mount Everest and K2, but he now prefers to climb rocks and engage in sport climbing. As he noted to Peter Potterfield in an interview for Mountain Zone Online, "Climbing is actually a very primal thing for those who do it. It's true that climbing meets some kind of basic need in me." For Potterfield, "Child's skill as a writer may make his the defining voice of climbing for a generation."
Thin Air: Encounters In the Himalayas, which was published in 1990, is a thorough account of three different climbs taken by Child in 1981, 1983, and 1986. Child takes readers along on each climb, describing in detail the crew mutinies, the financial mistakes, the brushes with death, and actual deaths on the climbs. In addition to the up-and-down journeys, Child describes the history of the politics that have surrounded the Himalayas and makes observations on India's culture, environment, and economy. "Dramatic, detailed, dynamically written," wrote Randy M. Brough in Kliatt, "this is the pinnacle of high-altitude adventure." Harry E. Whitmore, writing for Library Journal, called Thin Air "a worthwhile contribution to the literature of Himalayan climbs."
Child's 1995 volume Climbing: The Complete Reference is a fully stocked reference book for mountain, ice, and rock climbing. The book contains entries on geographic regions, mountain groups, techniques for mountain, ice, and rock climbing, climbing equipment and tools, and biographical sketches of past and present climbers. Child also discusses rating systems that gauge the difficulty of particular climbs. Included in the book are appendices with pictures and definitions that are helpful to novice climbers. A Booklist contributor assessed Climbing as a "unique and authoritative work." A. Spero, writing for Choice, advised, "Readers will find this book easy to use and informative.… There seems to be no comparable modern publications."
Postcards from the Ledge: Collected Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child is the author's 1998 collection of essays on climbing. The first entry is especially grisly and humorous, featuring as it does vivid descriptions of the difficult task of performing bodily functions while climbing. Child describes in the first chapter other travails awaiting the climber, such as frozen snot, parasites, and bugs. Other essays describe the debris left on high peaks, feats of heroism, tragic mistakes and mishaps, and controversies over historic-butdisputed climbs. A Publishers Weekly reviewer credited Child for his "civilized wit" in Postcards from the Ledge.
Child attained mainstream publication with his 2002 account of climbing and survival, Over the Edge: The True Story of Four American Climbers' Kidnap and Escape in the Mountains of Central Asia. In August, 2000, four young Americans were climbing in the Pamir Alai mountains of Kyrgyzstan. In search of challenging "big wall" climbing, these three men and one woman decided to ignore State Department warnings about the unstable political situation in this former Soviet republic. The region is beset by problems created in part by rampant drug trafficking and by the terrorist activities of Muslim extremists. Taken prisoner at gunpoint by a band of Islamic militants, the four Americans were held for six days and moved from hiding spot to hiding spot in the mountainous terrain. Finally, one of the four managed to push one of the captors over a cliff, and the Americans made a daring escape. Upon their return to the United States, this quartet was greeted by Child, who established an exclusive relationship for their story.
Thus Child had "everything he needs for an Ian Fleming-type mountaineering drama," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. This same contributor felt, however, that Child's subsequent tale was "flat," with "wooden" dialogue and motivation and psychological states "overexplain[ed]." Writing on the audio version of the book, John E. Boyd of Kliatt was more praiseworthy, calling Child's book a "gripping story," and further commenting that the author "captured the intensity and drama" of the six-day capture as well as the aftermath. Similarly, Gilbert Taylor, writing in Booklist, felt that Child "ably frames the politics as well as the mountaineering lore" in this "excellent rendition." Adam Mazmanian, writing in the Washington Post Book World, also found the book "compelling and well-written." Mazmanian did, however, have questions about what he termed "checkbook journalism," as Child shared the money from the book publication and any subsequent film deals with the four climbers in order to get an exclusive on their story. Subsequent articles by other journalists called parts of the climbers' story into question, causing a mini-furor among not only the climbing community but also along publishers row. "This little tempest is all the more unfortunate," thought Mazmanian, "because Child's account is well researched, vivid and more than plausible."
Child assisted climber Lynn Hill with the writing of her memoir Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World. One of the pioneers of the free climbing movement, in which the mountaineer uses only his or her body to climb without ropes, Hill has been something of a legend since 1975 and participates successfully in World Cup climbing venues. A contributor for Publishers Weekly called this a "remarkably entertaining autobiography."
Child, for his part, remains modest about his writing. He admits to no formal creative writing education, but he has "a strong desire to relate stories," as he told Potterfield. "It's something that is as strong a desire in me as the act of going climbing. Since I go climbing a lot, I think about climbing a lot, so it makes sense that I would write about climbing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 1996, review of Climbing: The Complete Reference, p. 951; April 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Over the Edge: The True Story of Four American Climbers' Kidnap and Escape in the Mountains of Central Asia, pp. 1373-1374.
Choice, March, 1996, A. Spero, review of Climbing, p. 1088.
Climbing, September 15, 2002, Susan Fox Rogers, review of Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World, p. 120.
Denver Post, April 28, 2002, Claire Martin, review of Climbing Free, p. L1.
Kliatt, January, 1994, Randy M. Brough, review of Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalayas, p. 40; November 2002, John E. Boyd, review of Over the Edge (audiobook), p. 53.
Library Journal, October 1, 1990, Harry E. Whitmore, review of Thin Air, p. 95.
Publishers Weekly, August 24, 1998, review of Postcards from the Ledge: Collected Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child, p. 41; April 8, 2002, review of Over the Edge, p. 223; April 29, 2002, review of Climbing Free, p. 54.
Washington Post Book World, June 10, 2002, Adam Mazmanian, review of Over the Edge, p. C4.
Mountain Zone Online, http://classic.mountainzone.com/ (October 27, 2003), Peter Potterfield, "Interview with Greg Child."
Smithsonian Online, http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/ (October 27, 2003), "Greg Child Image Gallery."*